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What Causes Bad Breath?

By - Bad Breath Expert

Most often, but not always, bad breath causes can be related to what you eat and your dental hygiene habits. If the halitosis is not chronic it can simply be the result of something you ate at your last meal. Garlic, onions, and peppers are examples of smells that can’t be easily disguised by sucking on a mint or chewing gum.

Brushing and flossing may not keep the scent from returning until you have eliminated them from your body. Because you actually inhale those strong scents into your lungs, you can literally smell them hours after they were eaten -- even if you brushed.bad breath causes

If you have halitosis or bad breath when you are not eating pungent foods it might be that you are not adequately brushing and flossing your teeth. By not removing all of the food particles that stick to the tongue, teeth, and gums, you provide a growth medium for bacteria, which will then give you odorous breath. The bacteria release skatol or hydrogen sulfide, which are bad smelling gases.

You are inviting gum and tooth disease as well as bad breath by: not having tooth cavities filled properly, avoiding professional dental cleanings at least once or twice a year, and not brushing the tongue as well as the teeth. In addition, dentures need to fit well to prevent bacteria from collecting in pockets under them.

Yeast infections in your mouth, gum disease, and not drinking enough water are all contributing factors to halitosis. Chewing tobacco, smoking cigars or cigarettes and holding a pipe in your mouth can all damage your teeth and gums, which makes for unpleasant breath as well.

If your breath is consistently bad to the point that brushing only helps for a short time, you might have more serious problems with your gums. Gum disease is usually the result of plaque buildup, which can result in permanent damage to the jawbone and gums. It must be treated, or you risk losing your teeth.

To treat and prevent bad breath from these causes, you should brush twice a day, including teeth, tongue, and inside the cheeks, and floss often. Replacing your toothbrush regularly (several times a year) is a good idea. If you wear dentures you should remove them at night; they need to be cleaned before wearing them when you arise. See your dentist to rule out periodontal disease or dry mouth.

Saliva in your mouth neutralizes the acids in plaque, thus washing away food particles and dead cells that cling to the inside of your mouth. If you have a dry mouth, these particles will contribute to bad breath and halitosis. Chronic dry mouth, called xerostomia, has several causes: problems with the salivary glands, breathing only through your mouth when you have a cold or congested sinus, and side effects from medications that you may be taking.

Some other conditions that cause bad breath are:

  • Diabetes – A sure sign of this condition is when your breath is strong and sour for no apparent reason. Ketones, which are the byproducts of the metabolism of fat, are produced both when a diabetic person fasts and when he eats a low carb, high fat meal. Insulin is needed for metabolizing glucose, and if there isn’t enough to do the job, the body uses fatty acids to handle it; thus producing that tell-tale odor on the breath. If you suspect this, see a doctor. If you are already diagnosed with diabetes, check your sugar levels.
  • Cancer – Lung and mouth cancers are sometimes detected by a device called Cyranose, which checks the breath of the patient. Chemotherapy medicines can cause dry mouth, and subsequently, bad breath.
  • Kidney failure – This can give a urine smell to the breath by excreting toxins through your lungs, which you then breathe out.
  • Liver failure – Gives the breath a fishy odor in the same manner as kidney failure.
  • The problem of bad breath is often exacerbated by radiation treatment and chemotherapy. One common side effect of nearly all treatments for all kinds of cancers is dry mouth. And without enough saliva bacteria will stay in the mouth, multiply and eventually cause bad breath or halitosis.
  • Stomach disorders - Ulcers, GERD, Zenker’s diverticulum, and an obstructed bowel can affect your breath, making it smell like feces.
  • Dehydration – By drinking too much coffee, tea, alcoholic beverages, and soft drinks you can dehydrate yourself. Anything that contains caffeine (yes, even chocolate) also has a high level of acid, which leads to a bitter taste in the mouth and foul breath. Quench that thirst with water, and chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless candy to stimulate saliva and freshen your breath.
  • Ketoacidosis – You don’t have to be diabetic to have this problem. By skipping meals, or fasting, you will cause the same sour, fruity mouth odor.
  • Sinus infections, mononucleosis, strep throat, tonsillitis - All of these conditions drip bacteria into the throat, which then manifests as bad breath. Your breath will clear up as soon as the infection does.
  • Upper respiratory infections, bronchitis – The source of the bad breath in these cases comes from the infection in the lungs. As you cough it up, your breath is contaminated.
  • Allergies – When you have allergies you have a two-fold problem. Untreated, they cause coughing, runny nose, and watery eyes. If you don’t take anything for the condition, you can develop a sinus infection, sore throat, and lung infections, all of which can cause halitosis. By treating allergies with antihistamines, you clear up all of those symptoms and end up with a very dry mouth, and possibly the same bad breath. It is easily resolved by drinking plenty of water.

The good news is that bad breath causes can usually be treated and controlled once you understand why they occur. There are over 170 different forms of bacteria that thrive in your mouth. Having a good dental hygiene routine is important to keeping this under control.

Offensive odor is produced when some gases like hydrogen sulfide, skatol, etc., are released due to bacterial activity mostly during food intake. Some of the bacteria cannot live where there is oxygen; they are anaerobic. Are you wondering how they can survive in your mouth? They do so by hiding in the crevices in your tongue, between your teeth, and tucked into your gums. At night, if you sleep close mouthed, you provide less oxygen, and they thrive, gifting you with “morning breath.” Of course, sleeping with your mouth open causes dry mouth, so morning brushing just shouldn’t be skipped.

Those high protein diets that exclude carbs can be devastating to your breath. This does not mean eating candy and cake to get your carbohydrates. Raw vegetables, fresh fruit, and a little brown bread, rice, or pasta, will give you the carbs you need to freshen your breath without damaging your diet intentions.

Foods such as tuna, pizza, tacos, garlic bread, scampi, salad dressings, and anything with lots of garlic or onions in it cause bad breath because they contain volatile oils. These oils are absorbed into the bloodstream after they are digested, and then go to your lungs, with the usual results.

There are also homeopathic remedies for bad breath. Instead of treating just the symptom, the mental, emotional, and physical aspects are treated at the same time. The theory here is that, by balancing the body, there is no longer a shelter that viruses and bacteria can hide in.

In addition to regular brushing and flossing, there are several natural products that homeopathic physicians recommend for use in water to be used as a gargle, or mouth wash. Oleum caryophyllum is aromatic, and reduces both bad breath and toothache. Cinnamon, diluted with water and gargled will sweeten the breath and is good for treating bleeding gums. Rhus glabra, when gargled, eases ulcerative lesions and has the added bonus of improving the smell of flatulence and stool.

While gum and breath mints may help for a while when you have eaten odorous food, only dealing with bad breath causes will give you the long term relief from chronic halitosis that you are hoping for. Drinking plenty of water, avoiding too much caffeine, quitting smoking or chewing tobacco, and eating raw vegetables and fruits will keep the plaque levels down between dental cleanings.

The development of good hygiene habits is needed to eliminate any causes that originate in the mouth. Regular brushing, flossing, mouthwash, cheek and tongue scrubs, and trips to the dentist will take care of most of your breath problems. If you have allergies, taking antihistamines will help, but you need to increase your water intake to combat the dry mouth. But if you are following these suggestions and still have chronic bad breath, it is time to visit your family physician to check out other possibilities. One thing that may help to guide you in the right direction would be The Bad Breath Bible by Dr. Katz. It is available online at

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